American Literature Essays And Opinions

American Literature Essays And Opinions-38
During this first phase of national self-consciousness, there arose a corollary critique of those few New World writers, such as Washington Irving, who had achieved international recognition by copying Old World models – writers who, according to belligerent democrats like Walt Whitman, imitated authors who “had their birth in courts” and “smelled of princes’ favors.” These outbursts of nascent cultural pride tended to take the form of shouts and slurs (Whitman spoke sneeringly of “the copious dribble” of poets he deemed less genuinely American than himself ) rather than reasoned debate.They were analogous to, and sometimes part of, the nasty quarrels between Democrats and Whigs in which the former accused the latter of being British-loving sycophants, and the latter accused the former of being demagogues and cheats.

During this first phase of national self-consciousness, there arose a corollary critique of those few New World writers, such as Washington Irving, who had achieved international recognition by copying Old World models – writers who, according to belligerent democrats like Walt Whitman, imitated authors who “had their birth in courts” and “smelled of princes’ favors.” These outbursts of nascent cultural pride tended to take the form of shouts and slurs (Whitman spoke sneeringly of “the copious dribble” of poets he deemed less genuinely American than himself ) rather than reasoned debate.They were analogous to, and sometimes part of, the nasty quarrels between Democrats and Whigs in which the former accused the latter of being British-loving sycophants, and the latter accused the former of being demagogues and cheats.

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Literary versions of these political disputes played themselves out in the pages of such journals as (Richmond) – magazines that sometimes attained high literary quality (in 1855, Thackeray called Putnam’s “much the best Mag. Most contributors to these magazines had nothing to do with academic life, such as it was in the antebellum United States.

The literary cadres to which they belonged developed first in Boston; slightly later in New York; and, more modestly, in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and Charleston.

It has failed above all to carry over in some modern and critical form the truth of a dogma that unfortunately received much support from these facts – the dogma of original sin. It is an unfortunate word for various reasons, not least because it obscures the fact that for many years after their subject achieved academic acceptance, Americanists were among the least professionalized of professors.

Especially at a time when English departments still devoted themselves mostly to philological research and to the recovery of reliable texts, the field of American literary studies was something of a misfit.

In short, forward-looking proponents of American literary ideals tended to be outside the academy.

American Literature Essays And Opinions

This has been so from the era dominated by the Duyckinck brothers, whose (1942), a revelatory book by a young freelance book reviewer who, like his contemporary Irving Howe, did not take a permanent academic job until late in his career. And a good number of major twentieth-century critics – notably Edmund Wilson, whose (1962) did much to revise our understanding of Civil War literature – expressed frank hostility toward academics as hopelessly straitened and petty.Perhaps the only disinterested critic still worth reading from this period is John Jay Chapman (1862–1933), whose work belongs to the genre of the moral essay in the tradition of Hazlitt and Arnold.But even such minor novelists as the Norwegian-born H. Boyesen (1848–1895) contributed occasional criticism that helped to enlarge the literary horizon.The author who emerged in the twentieth century as the central figure of nineteenth-century American literature, Herman Melville, was championed mainly by critics working outside the academy, such as Lewis Mumford, Charles Olson, and, in Britain, D. Probably the most significant body of American critical writing to date is that of a novelist, Henry James, in the prefaces to the New York edition (1907–1909) of his fiction as well as in his considerable body of literary journalism.“The Art of Fiction” (1888) – James’s riposte to the English critic Walter Besant’s prescriptive essay about the Do’s and Don’ts of fiction-writing – still has tonic power for young writers who feel hampered by prevailing norms and taste. The old Puritan moral sense, the consciousness of sin and hell, of the fearful nature of our responsibilities and the savage character of our Taskmaster – these things had been lodged in the mind of a man of Fancy, whose fancy had straightway begun to take liberties and play tricks with them – to judge them (Heaven forgive him!Andrew Delbanco, Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, has been a Fellow of the American Academy since 2001.He has written extensively on American history and culture, including books such as Some fifty years after the political establishment of the United States, the concept of an American literature barely existed – an absence acknowledged with satisfaction in Sydney Smith’s famous question posed in 1820 in the : “Who in the four corners of the globe reads an American book? Another twenty years would pass before this question was seriously reopened, along with the more fundamental question that lay behind it: whether a provincial democracy that had inherited its language and institutions from the motherland did or should have a literature of its own.At the turn of the twentieth century, however, American writing was beginning to become a ‘field’ in the academic institutions that earlier practitioners had, by and large, avoided.As early as the 1880s, Dartmouth, Wellesley, and Brown were offering, at least sporadically, courses on American authors, though the subject remained dispensable enough that The scholar who first installed the subject in one of the new research universities was Moses Coit Tyler, the child of Connecticut Congregationalists.It attracted students with current political and cultural problems much on their minds and scholars who seemed unable to rid themselves of what detractors regarded as chronic presentism.For example, the immensely influential (1927–1930), by V. Parrington, an English professor at the University of Washington, was an effort, as tendentious as it was ambitious, to trace the genealogy of democratic populism all the way back to dissident Puritans.

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